In 1997, while in Hong Kong to write about the British handover of that city to the mainland government, I visited the pastor of one of the largest house churches in China with a missionary friend who knew him. Pastor Lamb, as he was called, was in his 70s at the time. He told me he had spent half his life in prison for preaching the gospel. I asked him if the Public Security Bureau still came around to observe his activities.
"Not so much now," he replied.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because," he said, "every time they threw me in prison, the church grew."
We Americans know nothing about such persecution. We think we are being persecuted when a newspaper editorial criticizes us, or someone uses the Lord's name in vain in our presence, or calls us religious fanatics. Most of the world understands persecution in terms of jail, torture, beheadings, and ostracism from family and friends.